“Dental sinks” in mid-century bathrooms

dental sink in a vintage bathroomI have a confession to make: All these years, I have not really been reading all my vintage marketing materials much — I have been looking at the pictures and kind of scanning text. I have soaked up a lotta, for sure, but now, I have started going back and reading… trying to pick up more of the wherefore and why-to of mid century design details. Along the way, I’m also discovering more rare and fascinating things that were, apparently, tried out, but didn’t really catch on, so were abandoned. Which made me remember, above: “Dental sinks.”
This question first came up a while ago when I posted about 1940s interior decorating style. (Note the carrera glass tile and high-contrast jazz-age look: A dead giveaway that it’s 1940s.) In her comment, Laura asked:

What a great article! I have one question though … in the very last image, do you have any idea what’s up with the big sink and the little sink? I’ve never seen anything like that before … wondering if this is a house for the three bears, and Mama Bear’s sink isn’t in the picture. LOL

When I was in the first grade in Sister Mary Meda’s class at St. Christopher’s in Carlsbad, California, I won a chocolate Easter bunny in a class talent competition for my rendition, with voices, of the story of The Three Bears. I was quite proud. And ate the whole messy melting bunny at the next recess. Anyway, here is what I told Laura about Baby Bear’s sink:

Back in the day, sink manufacturers tried to promote a smaller “dental sink”. I think this may have had to do with (1) the fact there generally was only one bathroom and (2) concerns about hygiene and spreading disease.

I think that if you were to find a small sink like this — and if it were matchy-matchy with your main sink — wouldn’t it make a fantastic addition to a period bathroom recreation? A fabulous conversation starter … and hey, useful, too, especially if you only had one bathroom. Readers: Let’s keep an eye out at Re-Store and salvage places to see if we can spot one. John from deabath.com, if you are reading this, I’d love to hear  if you ever come across these.

Now that I have made a big deal about actually reading my piles and piles and piles of midcentury marketing materials, I must qualify by saying that this explanation of dental sinks doesn’t come from something definitive that I found all buried away. (I remembered them as a rare feature once I started spotting other oddities in my new wave of research.) But, I did see them called ‘dental sinks’ in the brochure that featured this photo. And the rest of the stuff in my hypotheses I’ve read about some place. I think that 2011 will be the year I really start taking notes and recording my sources, I guess.

Update: Dental sinks have “flushing rims”:

Reader Jocelyn sent me a link to this 1955 American Standard advertisement — it promotes the dental lavatory (aka, sink) as helping to relieving bathroom traffic congestion in the morning. This was the era of one-bathroom households, remember. Morever: Note that the ad says the dental sink has a flushing rim. Now I really need one of these! Thanks, Jocelyn!

…And more — Deabath.com sent a link to this vintage Crane dental sink with a flushing rim — only the second they have ever seen! Thanks, deabath.com team, we love you, and not just because you are an advertiser:

dental sink

Update: Second design of dental sink:

vintage sink dentalAbove: Another design that we spotted! Spotted on page 21 of my 1949 Crane catalog.



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  1. says

    Hello all;
    Yes, this was one of those things that really didn’t catch on all that well. We see them occasionally, and they do tend to leave quickly as they make a great sink for those 1/2 baths. Yes, the faucets are not made anymore (especially for the Standard one) but they often can be repaired/re-trimmed. The really cool ones are the flushing rim ones……. kinda like a mini toilet

    • pam kueber says

      Thank you, John from deabath.com! Send me pics next time you get one in, okay? And, I have no idea what you’re talking about “flushing rim” faucets?

      • says

        Hi Pam;
        Flushing rim sinks. Imagine the rim of a toilet (you know, where the water comes jetting out around the sides) grafted onto a porcelain sink. This is a true “dental” sink, and these are rarely found in a home….

        Speaking of urinals, when are you going to touch on the Women’s urinal made by Standard back in the ’50’s?

        I know…… Eeeeewwww!!!!!!!

        • René Mowry says

          I had an “Ah Hah!” moment after I read John’s message. I remember being at the dentist and told to spit into the little sink after having my teeth cleaned (or had fillings put in). The water was always running around and around the inside of the sink, so when I spit into it, it was quickly and cleanly flushed down the drain. No little plastic suction tubes that are used today. Yes — a “Dental Sink!” Any senior dentists out there to explain further?

  2. midmodms says

    How cute, if you had small children, to install one of these at child height. they could have their own sink to use without standing on a stool.

  3. Longgonebaby says

    Don’t forget that some powder rooms also had tiny sinks because it was to wash your hands only and had nothing to do with dental hygiene. These little powder room sinks are still made and installed today in modern powder rooms but take their origins from the 40s and 50s powder rooms.

  4. Nick32vic says

    I have seen a few of these in the tiny bathrooms of old bars in St. Louis. I also think that I saw a corner version like McMeg was talking about. It was in the bathroom at one of the really old Maid-Rite “loose meat” burger places in Quincy, IL. That was the first time I saw one. I thought it was funny how small it was and neat that it was a corner sink.

  5. David says

    We just bought a 1961 ranch house where a vanity has replaced the sink. The bath is very small and the vanity makes it even smaller. The original homeowner said that the builder goofed and made the living room bigger than needed thus making the bath very small. Any idea who made small sinks to fit? O have heard trailer sinks will work.

    • pam kueber says

      ooooooooooooooooooh, very cool! I added it to the story (John is always okay with my doing this) with links… Note, patty, that in the story we also link to a 1955 American Standard ad for a similar dental lavatory with flushing rim!

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